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Runners, don't fall for these myth-stakes

Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh returned to running regularly in preparation for a marathon, having had to drop the sport owing to an injury.
Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh returned to running regularly in preparation for a marathon, having had to drop the sport owing to an injury.PHOTO: FRENCHESCHAR LIM/SPH MAGAZINES

Fitness coach sets record straight on putting best foot forward to run

Come March 19, I'll be tackling the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

To get into the right frame of mind, I sought the truth about common running myths.

Running was my go-to exercise for years and I have a half marathon to my name, which I did seven years ago without training properly. I remember taking days to recover from the fatigue, and my back and legs were immensely sore.

Shortly after that, a back injury unrelated to running and a wonky right knee threw a spanner in the works, and I was forced to focus on low-impact workouts like yoga and barre.

I did the 5km route at the Shape Run 2016 in July, but only began training regularly when I accepted the challenge of training for a marathon.

So I'm starting from ground zero - at age 36 no less - since it has been such a long hiatus. Throw in the fact I was not doing much cardio workouts, and you've got a beginner.

  • One size does not fit all

  • Shoes are important for any runner. I got advice from running coach Andrew Cheong of SSTAR.fitness to help me find the best ones for my feet as I'll be running the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

    TIP 1: WEAR THEM RIGHT 
    Put on a pair of socks that you usually run in, stand up in the shoes and have someone measure the gap between the tip of the shoe and your longest toe. There should be at least a thumb's width gap.

    Next, ensure the shoes are the correct width. Lace them up, and make sure your feet fit comfortably in them, then check if the two rows of eyelets are parallel.

    "Bow-shaped" rows mean the shoes are too narrow and an "hourglass" shape means they are too wide. Most Asians have feet that fit D or EE widths.

    TIP 2: KNOW YOUR PRONATION 
    Motion-control shoes are designed for runners whose feet tend to roll in excessively or overpronate.

    Well-cushioned shoes are recommended for underpronators (those with high arches). Feet that roll in neither too much nor too little are described as neutral.

    To determine your foot type, it is best to consult a shoe retailer or get a running coach to help you do a gait analysis. A simpler way is to do this test: Spread a sheet of newspaper on the floor, wet your feet and step on the sheet, leaving footprints.

    If the arches of your footprints are filled in, it's likely that your feet collapse inwards when you run. If you see just your heels and the balls of your feet in your footprints, you have high-arched feet.

    If you see about half of your arch region filled in, you have neutral feet and can wear just about any shoe.

    TIP 3: CUSHIONING MATTERS 
    Elite runners tend to opt for lightweight racing shoes, as less weight equals less effort and faster finish times.

    But for most runners, that difference is negligible. And since the only way to get a shoe lighter is to do away with the cushioning, it would be best to choose footwear that provides you optimum cushioning before worrying about the weight.


    Zarelda Marie Goh


    •The article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg

Thankfully, I have help. Andrew Cheong, a running coach with SStar.fitness, is dedicated to training runners of any ability.

He is certified by the Road Runners Club of America, a qualified Federation of International Sports, Aerobics and Fitness (Fisaf) personal trainer, and has completed the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Track and Field coaching course.

To set off for the training programme on the right foot, I got Cheong to set the record straight on running myths that I've heard of.

MYTH 1

Running is only for the young and fit.

Andrew Cheong (AC): Feeling young is a state of mind and fitness is something anyone of any age can strive to achieve.

In fact, many who run feel younger as they get fitter.

Unlike other sports such as gymnastics and swimming, where youth has an advantage, running is a sport that anyone can do.

As we age, our cardiovascular system, muscles and bones will not perform as well as someone younger. But age should not be a barrier to running.

MYTH 2

Running is bad for the knees.

AC: Too much running is bad for the knees. That said, too much of anything is probably bad.

Studies have shown that our bones and ligaments actually respond positively to load-bearing exercises - like running - by getting stronger and denser.

If you are not predisposed to osteoarthritis, have normal knees and are of healthy weight, then running will not affect your knees.

MYTH 3

Running barefoot is the best way to run.

AC: Barefoot running has been popularised by the book Born to Run, but it is not something for everyone.

Those who have tried it claim that they have a better running gait and fewer injuries, but mainstream runners prefer the comfort and protection that a good pair of running shoes provides.

If you still want to try barefoot running, it's best to start slowly to build up the mileage and intensity.

MYTH 4

You have to run every single day to see results.

AC: Rest is part of your training, so rest days are essential. Novices to intermediate runners will get optimum results if they run three times a week or on alternate days.

Elite runners may train every day, or even twice a day. It all depends on how much rest you need based on your workload.

MYTH 5

You must always stretch before you run.

AC: There are various types of stretching, broadly divided into static and dynamic stretching.

Before a run, it's best to be warmed up, and dynamic stretching is recommended as part of a warm-up routine.

However for slower runs, a simple jog could be enough to warm up and sometimes skipping the stretching is okay.

MYTH 6

Runners don't need to build strength.

AC: Like any sport, a certain level of strength is needed. Strength training is an essential part of a runner's training. Strong muscles help maintain good posture when running and reduce the risk of injury.

Did you know the impact on your legs could be up to three times your body weight when you run?

Running is a one-legged activity - you land one leg at a time - so it's best to have strong muscles to keep yourself balanced.


  • The writer is the editor of Shape. This article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline 'Runners, don't fall for these myth-stakes'. Print Edition | Subscribe